The theme running through the Bears locker room after Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars was evident and universal, extending across units and position groups: Finish. Finish games, do it with plays at the tipping points that invariably come in every game, but just not always obvious until later.

The Bears have repeatedly failed to finish winnable games, and not just this season, which saw them lose a fourth-quarter lead at Houston and again against Jacksonville. Last season the Bears led or were tied at the end of three quarters in five games and won just two of those.

During the John Fox tenure, the Bears are 3-5 with the lead or tied after three quarters.

The problem is “learning” to win at the NFL level, particularly for a relatively young team that has myriad players accustomed to college games decided long before fourth quarters.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys,” said end/linebacker Willie Young, whose two sacks gave him six for the season, a half-sack short of his total for 2015. “I can’t say guys aren’t giving it their all every snap. I can’t say that. But we definitely have got a lot of young guys in place right now. So we’ll see what happens.”

What happens next will happen Thursday in Green Bay, against a wounded Packers team with quarterback Aaron Rodgers uncharacteristically shaky and a 3-4 mark over Rodgers’ last seven games.

 

The Bears set about eliminating errors over the past couple of weeks, referring to it as playing not to lose but really just taking care not to self-destruct with mistakes. The problem is that the mistakes didn’t disappear – 10 penalties vs. Jacksonville, misplays by multiple young players – but some element in the drive to win did.

Fox, who has made a career out of changing losing cultures and sought that from the outset of his Chicago time, now faces a problem of restoring fire into the team.

“The game is about confidence,” Fox said. Obviously win, good stuff wins, that’s how you breed that. I think our guys can see how close we are. [The Jacksonville game] was no different than the week before against Indy. Just the week before, winning a close game. The difference, it’s four or five plays. The problem is you don’t know which four or five it’s going to be. That’s always the case. With all teams, and particularly a young team, it can be challenging but it can be very doable, too.”

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Fox references teams turning around seasons from slow starts and reaching postseasons. The Bears obviously need a win at Green Bay – something they have accomplished two of the past three times there – but the focus is not on the game as a whole.

“One play at a time,” Young said. “I don’t think there’s a case where anyone is playing conservative. It’s just one play at a time as hard as you can play. One play at a time, not two.

“You have to do that not worrying about the outcome of the game. At some point you should not even know where you guys are at on the field because you’re not worried about the score is or how much time is left. You just come out there and play this call and give it all you’ve got for that one play and that has to be consistent… .

“If we can do that, then we'll come out the way that we want to come out.”